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article imagePlant science aims to help with world hunger

By Tim Sandle     Oct 23, 2014 in Environment
Three leading scientists have said that basic plant science and its application to agriculture, emphasizing can help to deal with global food demands.
World food production is a pressing issue, especially in light of the projected increases to world population growth. For example, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations predicts that food production must rise 70% over the next 40 years to feed a growing global population.
One of the key factors for tackling this is plants. Grains are needed for food and as food for livestock. An associated concern is with improving yields and with minimizing environmental pollution.
To explore the issues, and to offer some solutions, three specialist scientists have outlined the need to focus on basic plant science. This is theme of a special issue of the American Journal of Botany. The three scientists who have edited the edition are Allison Miller, Associate Professor of Biology at Saint Louis University; Elizabeth Kellogg, Member and Principal Investigator at the Danforth Plant Science Center; and Briana Gross, Assistant Professor of Biology at the University of Minnesota Duluth.
The essential argument of the journal is that the more biologists know about how plants work, how they evolve, the genetic interactions the allow plants to adapt to different environmental conditions, then the better societies can develop and improve sustainable agriculture.
One area of research highlighted as important is with the study of non-crop wild plants and to see how the way these plants grow and survive provides clues for improving cultivated plant production. For example, if biologists better understand the molecular and cellular details of how model and wild plants deal with drought, or heat, or pathogens, and how they keep producing seeds even in the face of such stresses, then these lessons can be transferred to cultivating agricultural crops.
The special edition of the American Journal of Botany is titled “Speaking of food: Connecting basic and applied plant science”.
Multiple solutions for feeding the world’s population are needed, and the issue should not be oversimplified. However, studies into plant science could help to address part of the problem of how to feed the billions of people on the planet.
More about Plants, Hunger, World hunger, Environment
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